Greenland , NH – The story couldn’t have been written any better. Following his college graduation this past spring, Matt Parziale (Thorny Lea GC – MA) wasn’t exactly sure what his future would hold. Questions about his future in golf were many but he didn’t know quite how to answer because – after all – a summer of tournaments lay before him. He decided that he would let his game answer all questions… and it’s doing just that.
“It feels good, but it hasn’t settled in just yet,” said Parziale, a Southeastern University (FL) graduate. “I wanted to have a good summer and so far it’s been awesome.”
A professional career may now be more of a reality for the 22 year old from Brockton after he captured the 2009 New England Amateur Championship title with an impressive score of 5-under par 283. This latest victory is one in a long list of accomplishments for Parziale this summer.
He finished as low amateur and in second place overall at the Massachusetts Open Championship in June, advanced to the quarterfinals of the Men’s North & South Tournament at Pinehurst, qualified for Match Play at the Massachusetts Amateur Championship and won the Brockton City Four-Ball Tournament.
“I have been playing good and going right along,” said Parziale whose only disappointment this season was losing to fellow New England Amateur competitor John Gilmartin (Indian Ridge CC – MA) in the Round of 32 at last week’s Massachusetts Amateur Championship. “I ran into John at Match Play but I played well that day. I have been just keeping out of trouble and that has been huge.”
The last two Bay State golfers to win this title – Mike Welch (2003, 2004) and James Renner (2005) – turned professional soon after winning this marquee regional tournament. Parziale is currently exploring his options and is hoping that a sponsor will step up to help him pursue his dreams of becoming a tour professional.
“That’s the plan,” said Parziale with a smile when asked about his professional ambitions. “We’ll see what happens at the U.S. Amateur [qualifier next week], but I’m playing well which helps. There are a ton of names on that past champions list that have done well on the PGA Tour so I’d like to join them.”
The turning point in this event came this morning when Parziale dominated what was a challenging and long Portsmouth Country Club layout. While 90% of today’s 43-player field could not break par this morning, Parziale was breaking away from the pack by firing a 4-under par 68 and moving from 4th to 1st place overall. With a two-stroke lead heading into the final 18 holes, Parziale did not falter. In fact, he continued his near flawless play by capping off his first-ever NEGA victory with a 1-over par 73.
“It’s a long day so I knew that if I had one good round I would be in contention,” said Parziale, who carded 17 birdies through four rounds. “It was good to get that round in early and then in the afternoon I just tried to hit the middle of the greens and stay out of trouble.”
While second-round leaders Craig Steckowych (Portsmouth CC – NH), Thomas McCarthy (Twin Hills CC – CT) and Kevin Velardo (CC of Billerica – MA) could not keep pace, the main threat came from Garrett Medeiros (Metacomet CC – RI), who played himself into contention following a round-three score of 3-under par 69. Medeiros, a junior at Wofford College, is known for “going low”. Just last week at the Rhode Island Amateur Championship, Medeiros posted a score of 13-under par 129 during the stroke play portion of the event to earn medalist honors by an astounding 10 strokes.
On this day, however, it would have taken another remarkable performance by Medeiros to catch Parziale who did what he needed to do to secure the win. Case in point… after making an uncharacteristic double bogey on the 525-yard, par 5 14th hole this afternoon, Parziale responded two holes later by making a 30-foot birdie putt to extend his lead to four shots and close the door on any thought of a come-back victory for Medeiros.
“It gave me some space,” said Parziale about his final birdie of the event. “I knew that I had a three-shot lead after the double bogey, so that birdie gave me back a four-shot lead.”
No matter what the future may hold for Parziale, there is no question that he will never forget his experience this week at Portsmouth Country Club.
“This is definitely the biggest win for sure,” said Parziale. “I was able to hit driver almost everywhere which is what I like. I rolled it well all week and the course fit my eye.”
Morning Round Highlights
There was no question who the hottest golfer on the course was this morning. Parziale carded the morning’s best round – a 4-under par 68. As if he was simply warming up, Parziale posted four straight pars before going on a birdie tear. He made birdie on four of his next five holes to make the turn at 4-under par 32. Two bogeys to start his second nine did not slow him down as Parziale rebounded nicely by making birdie on the 6th and 9th holes to pull back to 4-under par for the round and position himself comfortably in the top spot by a two-stroke margin.
The individual who stood two strokes back at that point was Medeiros, whose 3-under par 69 round featured five birdies and two bogeys. Medeiros registered birdies on the 4th, 5th, 7th, 12th and 13th holes. His only miscues came in the form of bogies on the 2nd and 6th holes.
For one golfer, every round seemed to get better and better. After beginning the tournament with a disappointing 8-over par 80, Brandon Parker (Blackstone National GC – MA) has been slowly moving up the leaderboard. On Wednesday he carded a 4-under par 68 to make the cut and then he followed that up with a solid 1-under par 71 this morning. The highlight of the tournament, however, came in the form of just one shot. On the 175-yard, par 3 5th hole, Parker scored his second career hole in one! The rising senior at the College of William & Mary used a 5-iron to make his ace. His stellar play on Thursday morning moved him from a tie for 33rd place all the way to 11th place by midday.
One player who did not enjoy the morning session was the 2001 champion of this event, Craig Steckowych (Portsmouth CC – NH) who suffered a challenging first nine holes this morning. The veteran competitor saw his lead go by the wayside after he made five bogies through his first nine holes. His lone birdie – on the 401-yard, par 4 1st hole – was followed by eight straight pars to cap of what was no doubt a frustrating 4-over par 76 third-round score.
In total, only five out of the 43 players posted sub par rounds this morning. Parziale, Medeiros, Matt Broome (Rhode Island CC – RI), Masayuhi Kobayashi (Tumblebrook CC – CT), Brandon Parker (Blackstone National GC – MA).
Final Day Musings
- Over the last 15 years, 10 champions have hailed from Massachusetts. Those recent Bay State victors include: James Driscoll (1995), John Curley (1996), Jim Salinetti (1997, 2000), Joey Pohle (1999), Kevin Quinn (2002), Mike Welch (2003, 2004), Jim Renner (2005) and Matt Parziale (2009).
- Two players who deserve a few days off are Frank Vana, Jr. (Marlborough CC – MA) and Bobby Leopold (Potowomut GC – RI). Both players advanced to the final match of their respective State Amateur Championships last week. In total, Leopold and Vana have logged 207 and 200 competitive holes of golf, respectively, over the past 11 days. Leopold was victorious at the 2009 Rhode Island Amateur Championship, while Vana fell in the final match at The Country Club.
- Posting the afternoon's low score was Richard Werenski (The Orchards GC – MA) with a 4-under 68. Werenski, who has verbally accepted a scholarship to play golf at Georgia Tech in the fall of 2010, carded five birdies and one bogey through his final 18 holes.
- Only three past champions were in this year’s field. Brad Valois (Alpine CC – RI) failed to make the cut, whileMatt Broome (Rhode Island CC – RI) and Craig Steckowych (Portsmouth CC – NH) finished tied for fourth and sixth, respectively.
- The New England Amateur Championship will head to Connecticut in 2010. The annual NEGA event will be held at Yale Golf Course in New Haven on July 20-22, 2010.